Data Kidnapping Threatens Island Businesses & Residents

October 15, 2015

NANAIMO – Online extortion schemes that hold computer data – holiday photos, school assignments, business records and everything in between – for ransom are becoming all too common in the homes and businesses of British Columbians on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Known as ransomware, this type of virus infects a user’s computer by placing an inaccessible net of encryption around computer files. The virus then demands payment to release the files before they are permanently deleted. A recent Intel security report shows an explosion in ransomware incidents – cases were up 165 percent over the first quarter of 2015.

“Ransomware is extremely damaging and there is very little you can do once a machine is infected,” explained security analyst John Holbrook, who oversees technology security at First West Credit Union’s Island Savings division. “Like most viruses, it can be delivered by visits to malicious websites, infected ads or downloaded from email phishing schemes.”

A ransomware infection could be potentially devastating to a small business owner. As offices and businesses around the province become increasingly paperless, the need for education and protection has never been greater.

“Having secure back-ups of files that are completely offline is your only hope once infected,” said Holbrook. “But, that’s also not a viable option for many business owners. Avoiding infection is critical, so all of the usual precautions apply,” he adds.

“Maintain up-to-date anti-virus protection, apply software patches as soon as they become available, avoid suspicious ads or suspect websites and do not open email from unknown sources.”

Holbrook advises it’s smart for business owners to remain vigilant when it comes to IT security. “There’s no such thing as being too small or too local. If you’re online, you’re vulnerable. It’s best to be informed and protected.”

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